Saturday, October 17, 2015
Banned film Arbat, now Arpatti, is unbanned
Arbat (อาบัติ), the Buddhist-themed horror film that was banned for its scenes of a monk kissing a girl, has been unbanned, and was released in Thai cinemas last night.
Running around three minutes shorter than the banned version, the movie is now known as Arpatti (อาปัติ).
"A little toned down" is how the movie is described in an article in The Nation by producer Prachya Pinkaew, whose Baa-Ram-Ewe production marque supported the film.
It is directed by Kanitta Kwunyoo, a young filmmaker making her debut feature. "I felt relieved that I could save the main theme of the movie," she is quoted as saying in The Nation.
According to the newspaper, the removed scenes included the novice monk kissing a woman and novices disrespectfully lifting a Buddha image by its head.
Censors, which had included Buddhist clergy on their committee, had also objected to scenes of monks drinking alcohol and getting into physical altercations.
The novice, a young man packed off to the monkhood by his father, is played by Charlie Potjes, a.k.a. Charlie Trairat, the former child actor from such movies as Fan Chan and Dorm. The story has the young man falling for a local girl. Meanwhile, dark secrets of the temple's past begin to manifest themselves.
The title change, from Arbat (อาบัติ) to Arpatti (อาบัติ), softens the film's image. The original title is a Pali word that refers to offenses committed by monks. The new title, Arpatti, has no apparent meaning. The difference as written in Thai is so subtle it is difficult to spot, with ปั instead of บั. New posters with the changed title were issued.
While Buddhist groups feared the film would cause Thais to lose faith in their majority religion, the film's supporters said it would strengthen the institution by calling attention to the issue of monks who break the Buddhist precepts – monks who drink, fornicate, fight, gamble, etc. – instances that are reported widely in the daily Thai press.
And though the filmmakers will deny it, there was also criticism that the movie's provocative original trailer and the ban itself were simply moves to generate publicity.
News of the ban received worldwide coverage, including articles in the Hollywood industry press.
Thailand's film-censorship law was changed in 2008, shifting the focus to a ratings system rather than 1930s-era one-size-fits-all blanket censorship. There are six ratings, ranging from P (for "promote") and G (general), to the age-related advisory categories, 13+, 15+ and 18+, and the restrictive 20-, which requires IDs to be shown. There is also a hidden seventh category, for films that are banned. Arpatti is rated 18+
Previously banned films include Tanwarin Sukkhapisit's erotic drama Insects in the Backyard and Ing K.'s political satire Shakespeare Must Die. Both filmmakers have appealed against the bans, and those cases are pending.
Other controversial films have included Nontawat Numbenchapol's 2013 Thai-Cambodian border documentary Boundary (ฟ้าต่ำแผ่นดินสูง, Fahtum Pandinsoong), which was banned and unbanned. There was also the political documentary Paradoxocracy (ประชาธิป'ไทย, Prachatipthai), which had the sound muted and subtitles blacked out when certain things were said.
Sahamongkol Film International, the studio releasing Arpatti, had previously released the Buddhist-themed crime thriller Nak Prok (นาคปรก, a.k.a. Shadow of the Naga), which had criminals posing as monks brandishing guns. It was eventually released in Thai cinemas with pop-up text warnings during certain scenes, to remind viewers that monks should not do those things.
Further coverage of the unbanning can be found in the Bangkok Post and there's discussion at the Dhamma Wheel forum.